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The cost of being specialized : pollinator limitation in the endangered geophyte Brunsvigia litoralis (Amaryllidaceae) in the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa

Geerts S. ; Pauw A. (2012)


The impacts of habitat fragmentation and reduced population sizes on ecological processes deserve more attention. In this study we examine pollination in rural and urban populations of Brunsvigia litoralis (Amaryllidaceae), an endangered endemic and a flagship species for plant conservation in South Africa. B. litoralis has flowers conforming to the bird-pollination syndrome, but the only flower visitor at the urban sites, the Greater Double-collared Sunbird (Cinnyris afra) (1.6. visits/flower/hour), is unable to access the nectar in the usual way due to a long perianth tube (38.8. mm) and resorts to robbing. Supplemental hand pollination was used to test for pollen limitation of seed set at the urban sites flowers were pollen-supplemented. Seed set in supplemented plants increased by more than an order of magnitude relative to controls. The longer-billed Malachite Sunbird (Nectarinia famosa) was observed as the sole pollinator of B. litoralis at the rural site where seed set was significantly higher. Although B. litoralis plants are long lived, the absence of pollinators in these urban fragments might place populations at an extinction risk. © 2011 South African Association of Botanists.

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